MATCH REPORT: 2004/2005 Season

Reading: Ferdinand (8 mins).
McSheffrey (63 mins), John (72 mins).
Half Time: 1-0
Attendance: 15,904

Pos Team P Pts GD
6 West Ham 32 51 +7
7 READING 33 51 +7
8 Sheff Utd 31 48 +0
Reading: Hahnemann, Murty, Sonko, Ingimarsson, Shorey, Little (Morgan 74), Sidwell, Harper, Hughes, Kitson, Ferdinand (Forster 63). Subs Not Used: Owusu, Newman, Young.
Coventry: Bennett, Duffy, Shaw, Williams, Giddings, Jorgensen (Barrett 82), Osbourne (Wood 85), Doyle, McSheffrey, Benjamin (Adebola 90), John. Subs Not Used: Whing, Staunton.
Reading: Murty, Ferdinand.
Referee: G Salisbury (Lancashire).

Reading's season continued to falter this afternoon with yet another defeat, this time at home against Championship strugglers Coventry City. League form continues to move from bad to worse for the Royals as the hard work earlier in the season is being thrown away. This latest result means Reading have picked up just four points from eight league fixtures - the kind of form that would see us fighting relegation if we hadn't had such an impressive run of results in the first half of the campaign. West Ham's big 5-0 home victory was enough to move them above Reading, pushing the Royals out of the play-off positions for the first time since last August. We're going to have our work cut-out for the rest of the season to win back a play-off place. Surely the most likely outcome is now a mid-table finish.

However, it had all started brightly for the Royals this afternoon as they took an early lead against Coventry, with our third league goal in the current run of eight winless fixtures. Reading fans were treated to a rare goal celebration when Shorey provided the ball to Ferdinand who headed home from the left to score his first goal in a Reading shirt. After going ahead the signs were good with Reading starting to pass the ball around well. We looked set to increase the lead with a couple of good moves seeing Little narrowly miss connecting for a certain goal. A long series of short passes saw Kitson, returning from injury and completing a whole ninety minutes, get in a straight forward shot that was easily saved. Again we failed to press our advantage and went in just the single goal up at half time.

The second half belonged to the visitors as Reading looked short of ideas and seriously lacking in midfield. Both Harper and Sidwell had very poor performances but Sidwell should be very disappointed with his showing after continually gifting the ball to the opposition. It turned out to be a very happy return for ex-Reading central defender Adie Williams as Reading rarely threatened in the second half. Instead Reading's weaknesses were exposed when Coventry pulled level just after the hour when they cut in from the left and McSheffrey danced round three or four players before blasting the ball in the opposite side of the net to make it 1-1. Coventry sealed the win within ten minutes of the equaliser when the Reading defence was static and an unmarked player was allowed to volley home from deep inside the Reading area.

Morgan came off the bench and added something to Reading who had become very jaded but it wasn't enough to have an serious impact. Andy Hughes forced a late save from the keeper and Kitson should have done better from close range but failed to get in a shot. In the end Coventry held on with ease and were good for their win. City, going through a bad patch of form themselves, looked a poor side but were still that much better than the Royals.

Following report by John Wells:
Reading continued their slide down the table today with an awful second half performance against a poor Coventry side on a run of five consecutive defeats. Having taken an early lead and dominating the first half there seemed only one likely outcome. The first half performance was not too bad, with good early crosses coming in especially from Little, and had Little been more determined in front of goal, he might have converted equally good crosses from the left wing into goals. Ferdinand tucked his goal away nicely after Shorey wriggled free of a defender tugging at his shorts to send in a good ball to the near post. Nobody could have anticipated such a feeble surrender in the second half.

Steve Coppell defended his players in the post match press conference blaming himself for the poor performance. He was surely protecting his players when he claimed not to understand where it all went wrong. He must have noticed the sloppy defending which allowed McSheffrey to race through and equalise. He must have noticed how easily Benjamin nodded the ball back across goal to an unmarked John in front of goal. If he wants to show his players what is wrong, he should make them sit and watch a video of their performances before Christmas and compare it with today's miserable offering. At that time the team was full of energy and effort and a single goal would have been enough to win the game. Reading's success this season has come from a solid base of good organisation and high work rate. Neither were evident today when it mattered.

The organisation went to pieces at times. I can recall Ferdinand and Kitson holding the ball up superbly but found no passing options. It's hard to say if team mates did not know what to do off the ball, didn't want the ball, or simply could not be bothered! Defensively, apart from lacking concentration Reading did not defend well as unit and often looked vulnerable. The quality of Kitson's play reminded us of what we had been missing even though I suspect he was slightly apprehensive about getting involved in a heavy challenge so soon after his serious injury. He must have been exasperated by the poor play of the rest of the team. When things are going wrong the weaknesses stand out even more and there were plenty on show today. Sidwell's passing has deteriorated unbelievably, Hughes' touch was poor, and Sonko looked very uncomfortable in possession.

Had Hahnemann not been at his best again it might have been a heavier defeat. He pulled off a superb save to deny McSheffrey when he left exposed by slack defending on the half way line and saved well with his legs from John immediatlely after the equaliser. The confidence has drained out a team that were full of it two months ago. The back four were guilty of hoofing the ball forward without any sense of purpose and they were gradually joined by the rest of the team. Attempts on goal were embarrassing poor especially from Hughes and Sidwell, although Hughes did force one good save out of Bennett in the second half.

The home crowd contributed to the gloom by suffering in silence. Once a gain our support was put to shame by visiting fans from a relegation threatened team. The only way out of a rut is to work harder and at least try to pass the ball with a bit more care and purpose. A greater sense of urgency might get the crowd going because, in spite of claims to the contrary, I don't think the players are working hard enough. There is no point in even thinking about a play-off spot if we continue to play with such a lack of quality and committment. Talking of committment - it was nice to see Adie Williams get such a warm reception from the home fans. His leadership would be a real asset now.


What's happened to that Reading fighting spirit? What's happened to the so called fittest team in the Championship? We came out and played the second half as though we had just got a message from the grim reaper? Where were the midfield generals? Where was the never say die attitude? Come on lads there's still time to save the season, grasp the opportunity and show the doubters they were wrong. We've come too far to throw it all away! Don't worry about anything that's going on behind the scenes, just focus on your job and give the fans something to cheer about! Get back to the old Reading we love, the team with passion, the team with fighting spirit, the team with drive, determination, and energy, COME ON READING COME ON!
Olly, Woodley Faithful

Where do you start after that debacle? What has happened to our club? From being in a great position to push on for promotion just before Christmas, we're now dropping like a stone and sit smack bottom of the current form league. The team yesterday looked like a bunch of misfits totally devoid of confidence and ambition. Yet another team came to the Mad Stad with a string of defeats behind them and just above the relegation zone only to walk away with three points. We're quickly becoming a laughing stock and an embarrassment. How ironic that Ade Williams would captain Coventry to victory and playing with the passion and guts that we know so well. How we miss him. Quite rightly we're now out of the play offs, and it would take a brave person to predict our return on current form. Of course it's possible but as other teams gather momentum and push on we are going in the opposite direction. Is it the managers fault or the players? Sure the manager can do nothing when the players are on the pitch, but he picks the team and he determines how the teams plays and who the club signs. To me Coppell has the charisma, motivational skills and personality of a wet flannel. Yet again last week whining on how easy it could be to finish in the bottom half of the table as in the play offs. Talk about negative. I actually think getting rid of him now would do no good. It's just a good job we've got enough points to avoid a relegation fight. Madejski won't sack him anyhow unless this abysmal run continues and if it does, Coppell should do the the honourable thing and fall on his sword.
Nick Newbury

Caversham Royal

It's no coincidence that the Royals disastrous form started when "Sir" Les and Keown arrived. With figures in the press varying from 15k to 18k a week for Ferdinand and probably a similar amount for Keown there most be unrest in the squad who see people coming in missing sitters, not in full training and strolling round the pitch while earning three times what they're on. What was Coppell thinking? Well, today he gave a clue with the "hidden agenda" quote after the match. The Royals were coasting into the play offs at the very least before these two turned up. While they might not have been picking up the wins they were still playing good football with a classic example being the Ipswich game where they battled gallantly against the best side in the league. Unless someone in the club can sort out this unsettling mess we're going to slip down to lower middle table mediocrity.
K Bradshaw

Too many players off the boil and no confidence. Whatever may or may not be going on behind the scenes, there's a job to do and pride at stake - it meant nothing on Saturday. We've lacked a quality midfielder for some time in terms of bossing what goes on, some skill to open up the opposition but more importantly, an older and wiser head on whom Harps and Sidders can rely and turn to for encouragement. An example would be Graham Kavanagh. Besides, who's meant to be pushing on or sitting deep between Harps and Sidders? Defensively, it's not looking good. Two games now where goals conceded against Leeds and Coventry could and should have been avoided. I would put Hughes in for Murty who hasn't looked good since his return from injury and maybe Newman for Ingar - I think he's a steadying influence and might do Sonks some good. Back to Les and Keown. If players don't like it, drop them. We have seen year after year ex premiership players turning us over and making the difference. We've needed someone like Les for some time, admittedly we haven't seen what Keown can do yet, but let's not forget that Pompey built success on such a strategy. And let's face it, both have paid their dues and achieved more than our current crop - time to grow up. The squad is as it is unless JM puts his hand in his pocket, so time perhaps for Convey or Morgan to be given a start with Little to make way - his and Murty's recent failures to deliver a decent cross when we've got Les waiting (e.g. Leicester) makes you wonder what planet they're on. Finally, we've been poor since Boxing Day but look where we still are - just imagine what some decent form would have done. Two points, this is a relatively easy year to get out of the league (has any team really impressed you?); what is it about us and dropping off in the second half of the season? An important week coming up. Decent results against Crewe and Leicester and we're back on track - get it wrong and we can forget it for another season.
Nick, Tilehurst

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